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Doctor Who: Boom – season one episode three recap
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Doctor Who: Boom – season one episode three recap

After two episodes, where Doctor Who seemed determined to greet any potential new Disney viewers with everything that could be fun, camp and ridiculous about the show, this was a darker turn from the pen of former showrunner Steven Moffat.

The conceit that the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) could not move for nearly the whole episode, and instead had to rely on Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) to get him out of a fix, dialled up the tension and gave both actors a chance to deepen their characterisations. Ruby is clearly prepared to take risks, and this Doctor is more vulnerable and emotional than some previous incarnations. You could imagine Peter Capaldi trying to sarcasm his way out of being stuck on a landmine, rather than being forced to sing a haunting soldier’s lament to calm the nerves.

The recurring motif of this season reared its head again, with Splice (Caoilinn Springall), Ruby and the Doctor all having the status of orphans by the end. Episodes that rely on a child actor can stand or fall on that performance, and for a relative newcomer Springall played well in the ensemble.

Caoilinn Springall as Splice in the base at Kastarion 3.View image in fullscreen

The will they/won’t they romance between Mundy (Varada Sethu) and Canterbury (Bhav Joshi) kept the plot moving along, and it’s not the first time Moffat has given us an army of military clerics. He used them here to allow the Doctor to make a point about the blind faith we put in technology, and the peculiar moments when we suddenly decide we need proof rather than belief.

The resolution, that a father’s love for his child will overcome all obstacles – including murderous AI algorithms – was handled more deftly than the similar theme with James Corden as the vehicle in 2011’s Closing Time. It was notable that the Doctor appealed to John (Joe Anderson), citing his own experience as a dad. This Doctor, this season, keeps mentioning his long-lost relatives.

Sum it up in one sentence?

The Doctor stands still for 40 minutes while trying to avoid blowing up a planet.

Life aboard the Tardis

Ruby has had an earthbound contemporary adventure, an earthbound historical adventure, and a trip to a space station, but this was the first time we’d seen her step on to an alien planet. It nearly killed her. And we saw a Doctor in a rush to whisk her around the universe, telling her that human lifespans suck, and that two minutes is enough to take in a spectacular view. In truth, with only eight episodes in a season these days, it does feel like we are rather hurtling towards the finale already.

Millie Gibson, Ncuti Gatwa and the Tardis.View image in fullscreen

Fear factor

Despite being tense, this was no Moffat frightfest along the lines of The Empty Child or Blink or Silence in the Library. The fear chiefly came out of Moffat’s extrapolation of current trends to conjure a vision of the future where AI decides whether your life is economically viable or not – and can choose to mimic you for your loved ones after it has killed you.

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Mysteries and questions

There was a substantial role for Susan Twist as the interface of the ambulance. She has now appeared as five seemingly different characters across the last six episodes. Is this leading somewhere, or are the production team just having fun with us? And hang on, sorry, what, Varada Sethu was Mundy? Next season’s companion Varada Sethu? There’s always a twist in the end …

Deeper into the vortex

  • “Harry, I’m standing on a landmine”. Within minutes of landing on Skaro in 1975’s Genesis of the Daleks, Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor had to be rescued from a landmine by Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter).

  • Moffat also wrote the scenes in 2015’s The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar where Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor encountered a young Davros stuck in a field of “hand mines”.

  • Boom isn’t quite the shortest ever Doctor Who episode title. The Chris Chibnall-penned 42 takes that honour.

  • The Doctor has known the Skye Boat Song for a long time. Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor played it on his recorder during 1968 adventure The Web of Fear.

  • The Doctor calms himself by reciting a rhyme that finishes “Don’t you know there’s more to life than the moon and the president’s wife”. In The Magician’s Apprentice, Missy told Clara that the Doctor once “stole the moon and the president’s wife”. In Hell Bent, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor corrected that tale, telling Clara “It was the president’s daughter. I didn’t steal the moon, I lost it.”

  • At the end of Boom, the Doctor promises he will visit Splice and Mundy for fish fingers and custard, one of the dishes a post-regeneration Matt Smith demanded from young Amy in The Eleventh Hour. The 2016 Doctor Who Cookbook had a recipe.

Next time: 73 Yards

Welsh folk horror! And there is a pub! And probably Susan Twist again, bless her! Woooooooh!

Source: theguardian.com